Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Today is my grandson's birthday. The photo above was taken almost five years ago. What a blessing my four grandchildren have given me; and after the miraculous blessing of my own two children!
Today is also celebrated in much of the religious world as the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It is a time to remember the horror we all feel when we read the story of Herod having had all male babies under the age of two killed, to 'protect his throne.' What a horrible thing to do, for such a small risk! Yet several years ago our own country's leader chose to bomb another country, killing many innocent children, for another such perceived risk. I am also horrified by the loss of those children. In fact, I am more horrified, because I feel that I have some guilt in that, as it was done by a country I have 'pledged allegiance' to. I am not wanting to get political here, but I do believe we often need to take stock of, and to grieve for, and perhaps even ask forgiveness for, all of the innocents who die needlessly; all those who live and die in poverty and hunger; all who die at the hands of the Herod's of our own time; all who are abused by those they should be able to trust.
Please, Lord, bless the children in our lives today. Keep them safe, as you protected Jesus from the genocide of Herod. Open the eyes of all who have children in their care, whether it be parents or caregivers, or nations or churches. Help them to see the wonder that our children offer if we keep them safe and innocent. And forgive us for any part we have had, as individuals and as nations, in destroying the blessed innocents around us, whether by intent or neglect.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)
The word 'advent' means 'come' or 'waiting for something or someone to come.' The advent season is about waiting for the Christ to come to earth as a child. The Israelite people were in waiting for a long time for this to happen. We are also in a season of advent; a waiting time for Christ to come. The above scripture from Isaiah 40:31 has always been a favorite of mine. It is especially so now, as I am having times when I need my strength renewed; when running would not only make me weary, but would be almost impossible; and when I do sometimes grow faint (as well as achy) when I walk; when I would love to soar like this eagle that flew alongside us recently in the canyons. I am waiting for a time when this aging body will not be an issue; when Spirit is all that counts.
In the meantime, I am keeping my Hope in the One who will make all that possible. As I someday soar along on my eagle's wings, I hope I am in a huge flock of all those whom I love. Won't we have fun, soaring and running and walking together with the One we have been waiting for; the One we have put our Hope in?
Of course, I also believe that these things can happen while we wait here; that our faith and hope can spiritually uplift us to keep going, when we feel like we can go no longer. It promises more than that; it promises that we can spiritually SOAR, when we would, without that hope, be spiritually weary and faint. I cling to that. May we all Soar throughout the coming year, as we hope in the Lord together.
Monday, December 20, 2010
In reality, it is very difficult to find calm at this time of the year anymore... or at any time, if I am honest with myself. I decided to carve out a piece of quiet for myself this morning. I treated myself to a peppermint mocha and a movie, all by myself. I have to admit, I discovered I was more than a little annoyed that other people joined me in the theater, with their loud munchy snacks, their whispers and even loud comments to each other. My 'treat' of calm time was quite rudely invaded!
How did Jesus stand the press of the constant crowds and the probably often rude demands for His attention and time? I often focus on the fact that he went 'into the wilderness' to escape all those things, but I do think those escapes were few and far between, and possibly almost non-existent after His ministry began. This morning I tried to focus on enjoying myself, using my 'treat' time for relaxing and restoring my frazzled self, rather than letting those around me push my very last buttons. I did almost jump up to say something scathing to the teens behind me at one point... almost, but not quite. I settled down, and realized they were also there to enjoy themselves, and a frazzled grandma figure yelling at them in the theater would not make for a fun time for any of us. Once I had told myself that, and pictured the absurdity of the scene and their possible reactions, I found I was more sympathetic with them, and I did finally enjoy the movie.
In truth, there is little natural calmness in our world today. We have to seek it out; we have to make it for ourselves. And perhaps we have to try to make a bit of it for those who just happen to be surrounding us. Those kids at the movie were never aware of how close I came to jumping down their throats and disrupting their movie date today. But I was. It took some true effort on my part to not respond to what I perceived to be their lack of consideration for others, but I'm glad I made that effort. What I put out into the world can make a difference, even in a small way. I can be 'calm and bright' or I can make everyone around me wish that I had stayed away from them.
I do wish you to have moments of calmness and brightness in these last advent days, even if you have to strive to find it and to make an effort to create it for yourself. It is a worthwhile pursuit in this world that is filled with a great deal of chaos and darkness.
And may God Bless us, everyone.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I had an unexpected reading in my downloadable daily Bible reading today. It was featured as an advent scripture, but it was from Exodus, and was the description of how the tabernacle was to be decorated, based on God's instructions. It seemed like that was chosen just for me! I have been a not-very-enthusiastic holiday decorator this year. We have no company coming here, and haven't planned any big social events to be held in our home either. So, given that it takes me a couple of days to decorate, and then a couple more to put it all back, I had decided I would just as soon skip the decorating this year. My husband didn't like that idea, so I decorated a tiny bit, though half-heartedly, and not nearly as much as I usually do, then decided that was enough, because after all 'who really cares about holiday decorating anyway?'
Well, I was surprised at the Exodus reading. It does not tell me that God 'cares' about if and how I decorate for the holidays. But I think it does tell me that He cares about beauty, as many of the decorative elements in the tabernacle, and later in the temple, were strictly for decoration; for the sake of beauty. I think what the reading tells me is that, being made in God's image, I too really do care about beauty; about making things 'pretty' and enjoyable to look at. If I am going to decorate my home, the place God has given me to live with Him, then I should care about making it a place I will enjoy, and that those who share it with me will also enjoy, if I can at all possibly do that.
I guess it is all a part of the idea that "whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." (Colossians 3:23) The Lord loves beauty. Although I have not decorated my home with all of my holiday collection, I do hope that, when I plug in the tree and the lights on the mantle; when I light up the star in the window that is to remind me of the Light of the world; and when I set a match to the candles I so much enjoy, I will not be alone in enjoying the simple beauty of these things. It is my hope that the designer and decorator of the tabernacle, His own house, will find joy with me in the things I have put out in my house to make this season a bit brighter.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I've been thinking today about what it would be like to be going about my work, here in my house or studio, or running the seemingly endless errands I run, and suddenly to have it all interrupted by a heavenly host of angels, coming to tell me that the Savior of the people has come, and I should stop my work and go find him.
Would I be a skeptic, even in the presence of angels? Perhaps I have been in the presence of angels before, and have failed to notice or give credence to them. I would like to think that, like the shepherds, I would drop my paintbrush or the vacuum, leave my shopping undone, and run to where I could worship Him. So why do I not follow their example anyway? I have even more reason to celebrate the coming of that child than they had - I know the whole story. He became a child and a man and lived and died for me.
Rise up, shepherd, and follow!
(The painting is by one of my favorite classical artists, Jean-Francois Millet.)
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Though I haven't yet seen the Harry Potter movie, I have had an interesting thing come to light in my own family history.
My husband and I recently took a trip to Kansas to visit his family. I also got to have a short visit with my sister while there. On our way to meet her part-way between where she lives in the Kansas City area and Topeka, where we were, we drove though the tiny town of Stull, Kansas. My father grew up in the little agricultural town, and I grew up sufficiently close to it that we often attended church there. On our visit there last week, we visited the old stone house that my grandfather's grandfather had built, which is now a historical site and owned by a state park.
We also visited the abandoned house where my father lived when he was young and the Stull cemetery. My great-grandparents are buried there, as are a number of other relatives and familiar Stull family names.
When I got home, I sent some of the photos to my Dad. My Dad is a great storyteller, mostly because his memory is amazing, and he has lived through some fantastic stories. He asked me if we saw any ghosts in the Stull cemetery. I thought he was joking, but he proceeded to tell me about some of the legends that have surrounded the site for over a hundred years. He told me to Google "Stull cemetery and Satan worship." I did. Unbelievable! (Literally.) Supposedly, we were at one of the 'Seven Portals to Hell,' and we didn't even know it! When I told my husband about it, he said he wished he'd have known, so we could look for the old church steps that supposedly go on and on down to who knows where. I am personally quite glad we didn't know the cemetery's reputation, and were just looking for our family history. Though I have had little experience with true evil and unholy spirits, I have had quite enough to not want to encourage or invite them in any way into my life, even out of curiosity or amusement.
When I asked my Dad if he had ever experienced anything weird there, he told of a time when the water people came and tested their water and told them to not drink it anymore, as the black specks that were in it proved to be human remains. They lived downhill from the cemetery. The little church we used to visit when he would preach there looks from the road as if it doesn't have an entrance; they chose to put the entrance on the back, so when people came out of worship they didn't have to look at the unholy ground of the cemetery.
So why have I decided to post this here, and what does it have to do with Harry Potter? I'm not sure, but it seems to me that the battle is the same. There is no Voldemort, but there is true evil in the world. I don't know if that true evil manifests itself in the tiny cemetery where my ancestors are buried, but I do wonder if the rumored evil that was so close by is why so many in my family have become true warriors against the forces of evil and for the One who protects us against such things. I do not doubt the power and the reality of either the unholy or the Holy spirit; theirs is an ongoing battle we are all in and have 'chosen sides' for, either by intent or default. Like Harry Potter, I want to be sure that I am on the winning side.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family and friends!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I have been playing the rebel lately; a role I come to naturally. At times I even want to stomp my foot like a child and shout, "But I don't WANNA DO THAT!!!" And 'that' could be anything from my daily keep-up chores and errands to, well just about anything. I just want to be left alone in my studio to weave - the one thing I have NOT had enough time to do lately.
What is eating up my time and making me so restless and rebellious feeling? Nothing big. Little things; laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, going here and going there. Putting in time with church friends, working in the gallery, hiking with my husband, flu shots, ear-aches. No Big Awfuls to rebel from... just the little things that can be joyous in and of themselves, if I approach the with the right attitude. But I have not been approaching them with a 'right attitude.' I have been rebelling in my heart against it all. I have been praying, "Lord, let this cup pass from me;" a prayer I would not ever really want answered.
I was in the doctors office (again) yesterday and I picked up a magazine as I waited my turn. In it I read a portion from one of Mary Oliver's poems, "The Summer Day." The author of the magazine article quoted the last lines:
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"
I was brought up short. What am I going to do with it? Today? Am I going to whine about the little irritants that are truly blessings, as I go about my blessed and precious gift of a life? No. I am changing my prayer.
Lord, help me to see and enjoy each blessing You send my way. Help me to know the blessing of it all. Help me to be a blessing to those you put in my path. Help me to find joy in today's chores, each and every one of them. Help me to delight in the sunshine and in the rain and snow. Help me to sweep up dog and cat hair with joy as I delight in the animal friends we share our home with. Help me be thankful for each piece of laundry that I wash and fold, that will cover and keep us warm. Help me to be wise with my time, and not waste it, as each moment is a precious gift from You. Lord, guide me to use this one wild and precious life in the joyous, attentive way You want me to.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
On his days off, my husband has been hiking the high desert trails with Booker. I occasionally go along. The other morning, he asked me to go with them. My first thought was of all I needed to do: the crab apple tree has dropped it's literal half-ton of apples to be picked up before snowfall; my house is a mess; I am behind on both laundry and studio work; and I am determined to finish my garden paths before snow falls. But I went along anyway.
When we got to the top of the plateau that overlooks our valley, I could see the Grand Mesa and the Bookcliffs, ending in Mt. Garfield to the east. If I looked to the west, I could see the backside of the Colorado National Monument. And, if I looked carefully, I could just see where our house is... there, just to the right of the top of my husband's head, I could see the construction crane up at the university campus, which is three blocks from our house, so I could figure out where it would be.
I could not see the fallen crab apples. I could not see my disarrayed house and studio. It made me think of the song, "From a Distance" that I first heard Nanci Griffith sing (though I think Bette Midler made it popular later on.) The point of the song is that God is watching us from a great distance, so what He sees is not necessarily what we think He sees. I've never been real sure about that concept. I think God can have some pretty powerful 'close-up' lens, to see into our very hearts should He choose. But the song, and viewpoint, is probably correct in that our viewpoint (fussing about undone chores) is not what God is concerned about in our lives. He sees a bigger picture. He sees the panorama of our lives; how they fit into the lives and events around us.
Things that tower over our lives, like the Grand Mesa and the Bookcliffs and the Monument tower around our valley, can seem small and insignificant, given enough perspective.
Sometimes it is good to get distance, in whatever way we can. It helps us to see that we are not as large, as important, or even as worrisome as we sometimes believe ourselves to be. We look at our own lives through 'macro lenses.' Get some distance. Look at your life with a 'long lens,' or get above and away from it for a bit. It will give you a new perspective!
From a distance we are instruments
marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.
(by Julie Gold)
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
When we go to our cabin on the mountain, we drive around the lake in the evenings to watch the deer migrate down to the lake for their evening drink. They know where to be filled; where to quench their thirst.
I have been listening to a beautiful song by Dennis Jernigan called "As the Deer Thirsts for the Water." It fits with how I have been feeling for such a long time. I long for a place to be filled up, to be filled to overflowing, to be thirsty no more. That is what a church should be; a filling station for the spirit.
Lord, there is an emptiness in us all that can only be filled by You. We need places; filling stations to refill our running-on-empty selves, lakes to quench the thirst that only You can fill. Help our churches to be that place for us. Help us to be that church for others. Help us to find the lake, Lord, where You are waiting to satisfy our thirst.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I get so irritated when people say the US was formed as a 'Christian nation;' 'Christian' of course meaning their own particular brand of Christianity. This country was not formed to be attached to any form of religion. Even though many of the US founders were themselves Christians, even they did not believe alike. Nor did they, any of them, expect to force their religious beliefs on the country as a whole, either now or then. In fact, the major reason this country was formed, and rebelled against England, was because the founders wanted a place where it's citizens would be free to worship as they chose. The separation of church and state was a paramount belief of all of this country's founders.
Many Christians do not understand that. If we were to become a "Christian nation," making it so that we Christians can, as so many would like, tell the government what to do, it could soon backfire, with the government in a position to tell all citizens how to worship. Though you might think that could be just fine, what happens when the government tells you to worship in a way that is not what you believe? Remember Germany?
I also do NOT think it is appropriate for preachers to tell their congregants how to vote. In fact, I believe this takes them out of the category of being a religious institution, and they should perhaps lose their non-profit status, and be treated as political lobbyists.
I 'vote my morals,' and my religious beliefs at every election, but that does not mean that I am voting exactly how everyone I go to church with votes. I do not even want to know how they vote! Voting in an election is not a 'Christian' duty; it is a patriotic duty and privilege. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Mt 22:21) I vote as a compassionate citizen; one who is concerned with social welfare, and with other people. In fact, I try to vote as I believe Jesus would vote in my place. Your reasons for choosing the candidate of your choice are your own business. If we were truly people of faith, with even faith the size of a mustard seed, perhaps we would not need to go to the ballot booth at all. We would know that, in every election, no matter what the results, God casts the final ballot.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version) "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
I recently attended church at the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. From the minute I stepped in the door, and watched members greet each other with sincere hugs, I felt that this was a place where the candle was still lit; the Spirit was still in attendance. I do not feel that way everywhere I attend church, and what a pity that is! Especially right now, when the political battles are being fought in churches... which should never be! Churches are not places to condemn and show hatred, no matter how much we may disagree with another person's opinion or even lifestyle. Churches are places where we should acknowledge that God loves even our enemies, and He expects us to love them, too.
How quickly we forget that Jesus showed this love in the story of the good Samaritan. Samaritans were enemies of Israelites, at that time. But the Samaritan (not even 'a christian' of the time) showed love and compassion. Often 'christians' feel they have the moral right, and even duty, to use hateful words towards those they disagree with, whether that disagreement is politically, morally, or religiously based. We feel that we have the right to 'clear the temple' of those whom we disagree with. Only Jesus had that right. He left us with the command to love those around us. We are not only guilty of not showing love, but we are guilty of passing it on. Our children are becoming bullies, with sad and horrific results. They learn this from us. Should they not instead learn how to give sincere hugs to those they come into contact with, no matter who they might be?
Beware: I do believe that the first of the two commands is the hardest of the two, and that if we cannot love the people God has placed around us, we have become incapable of loving God.
Be loving today. Catch thoughts of hatred as they pass through your mind and ask God to remove them forever. Do not judge another person's motives and beliefs, just pass on love to them so that they can see a loving God living in your heart.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I saw this heron walk on water recently. It brought back to me the wonder of Peter walking to Jesus in the storm across the water of a lake, just as this heron was doing. Peter should not have been able to walk on water, and he couldn't, once he remembered that he shouldn't be able to. I don't really think this heron should have been able to walk on the lake water either, but it didn't know that, so on it he walked!
Madeleine L'Engle has written a wonderful book called Walking on Water. In it, she talks of flying as a child. I believe many people have that memory, including me. Not flying as in up in the sky with the birds, but doing things like 'floating' down a staircase without touching the stairs, and getting a swing to go as high as it could go, so that the chains buckled back on themselves, then jumping off and just floating effortlessly to the ground. I do remember doing those things. And I also remember that I could no longer do them when my older sister informed me that they were impossible to do. As I write this, I wonder how many of you will think I am crazy to admit such things as fact? But I read a lot, and I believe I am not alone in these childhood experiences. In her journal, my mother-in-law wrote of one of her childhood friends, who could get a swing going high enough that he would then jump off of it onto a second story window ledge of a building nearby. Then they would get his swing going high enough, and he would 'jump' back onto it.
When we go to the lake, I swing on the swings there. I swing very high, and I sometimes have the impulse to let go, and jump off like I did as a child. But now I know that if I did that, I would fall to the ground like lead, and would likely break something I don't really want broken.
Why is it that I can no longer do what I once did? Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “….if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Aha! Therein lies the answer. I believed I could do something that I no longer believe I can do.
According to Madeleine L'Engle, if we have enough faith, if we truly could believe we could do it, we could walk on water, as Peter and Jesus did. As the heron does.
So how many things in our lives are we not doing, because we don't believe we can do them? And why do we limit ourselves so much by our own disbelief? I don't really think I need to fly again, though wouldn't it be a wonder! And I probably don't need to walk on water. But there are a number of things that I probably do need to do; things that God perhaps even wants and expects me to do, that I 'just can't do.' My belief of my limitations limits me.
"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!"
Thursday, September 9, 2010
As I was driving to church yesterday evening, this double rainbow was in front of me all the way. I didn't have my camera, but pulled into a driveway to take three shots with my iPhone, which I was able to piece together.
So all day today, I have been singing the childrens' song to myself, "When I see a rainbow, high in the sky, then I remember that God is nigh. When I see a rainbow or mountain or sea, then I remember that He cares for me!"
I just recently read the verse in Genesis that tells us that God put the rainbow in the sky as an occasional reminder that He loves us enough that, no matter what we have done to upset and offend Him (and we surely must be far worse now than people were in Jonah's time) He will not destroy us all with another flood.
Goodness! I think we need to see more rainbows! Or remind each other somehow that God is in control of our world. We all want to be in control. It seems that even Christians, and sometimes especially people who claim to be Christians, want to be in charge of fixing things the way they want them to be. We forget that, even if things are not the way we want them to be, God is still in control. We can do our best to make our little corner brighter, but to try to 'fix it' is not what God has called us to do.
How can burning copies of the Koran lift up God through our actions? How can expressing hatred to entire portions of the world be a way to share Christ's sacrifice and God's love with and for them? I am so saddened by acts of hatred perpetrated by those who claim to be followers of the One who came to live and die only to teach us to live in Love.
September 11th, 2001 was a very sad day for us all. I think, if we learn anything from it, it must be that we need to be more loving to one another, and to the world as a whole. Hatred begets hatred. Violence begets violence. Only unceasing Love can cure the saddened hearts of the world. This September 11th, remember in prayer those who lost loved ones on that day. And try to remember Who is still in charge. Look for more rainbows to remind you, if need be. You are loved; Pass it on...
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So much beauty to notice...
as I have shared my spot in this world
with those around me this past month.
Almost unbearable delights of wonder,
and joyful surprise.
Goodbye to this month of August, and the summer delights God has blessed me with.
Tomorrow begins a new month; my favorite month of the year! I will awaken with high expectations tomorrow. September will surely be a month of Grace and Wonder!
Friday, August 27, 2010
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1
I awoke in the middle of the night last night and could not get back to sleep. Words floated randomly through my mind, taking me here and there; anywhere but back to sleep, where I longed to be. So I decided to try to quiet my mind with meditation. The 'Book of the Month' at the congregation we have been attending is the gospel of John. As a child, I memorized the first verse of the book, so settled on that to guide my meditation.
I know that, later in the chapter, John identifies "the Word" as Christ. But why does he here, at the beginning of his own written word, begin with The WORD? It came to me that this short verse is John's version of the creation story. Before anything else existed, God had Word. In fact, in the Genesis creation story, God used Word to create everything else. He spoke it into being. "And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light." (Gen.1:3) Then He used Word to name what he had created: "God called the light 'day,' and the darkness He called 'night.'" (Gen 1:5)
Word. It is the basis of all that we are. The Word is in us. We use it to think, to communicate, even to emote to ourselves and to God. Without Word, we are but empty shells.
I have so often thanked God for words... for words from His inspired written word; for words of comfort, joy, encouragement, or love from my husband, friends and family; for precious words from the lips of my children and grandchildren; for the written words of Anne Lamont, Madeleine L'Engle or even Jane Austen. Words are a precious and large part of my life. Word is who I am and what I do. Even the images I create at my loom and easel are wrapped up in words, in Word.
The slang dictionary says that the use of "Word!" on the street derives from the shortening of the phrase, "My word is my bond" in prison usage. To say "Word" is to say something is true. Word is Truth.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1
Lord, thank You for the blessing of Word. Please remind me that my own words came to me as a gift from You. Help me to use them for Your purpose: to bless and not to curse; to promote peace, not dissension; to uplift and love, and never to degrade or hate.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
When you live in an old house, it is very easy to adopt it's history as your own history. Especially when you have met, in various ways, those who have lived there before you. Today, a woman from the historical society came by and gave me this fantastic photo of the woman who lived here for 50 years (above). The photo was taken before she was married and lived here. Her husband was a prominent physician, one who was instrumental in establishing the hospital here. The story is that he met her working in the dime-store, and that he then, wanting a more sophisticated mate, sent her to finishing school, then married her. They lived together in the house we now occupy for 50 years. We also have a photo of her husband, from the 'hallway of history' at the hospital.
This photo is of the daughter of the woman above. It is of her wedding day, coming down our stairway, before leaving on their wedding trip. Both photos will be enlarged and hung with our 'family pictures.' Isn't it funny how you can adopt people based on such shared experiences? I think of these women often; as I sweep up dog hair or dust the never-ending woodwork. They did the same things I now do, in the same places I do them. I recently rehung a clothesline, on the pole where theirs had hung. Hanging out sheets and towels, I think of them doing the same. I believe our connections to those who came before us, whether related by blood or proximity, keep us more aware of our place in the world.
Our connections give us continuity; help us see that we also have a place coming before, as well as after, others. It makes me want to leave 'clues' behind. Photos are good clues. I will so enjoy these two photos! When we moved to this house, I left some Honduran coins tucked into a closet, between the wall and the shelf of the house we left behind. I hoped someone would find them someday, and be curious enough to discover that a good man had lived there, who went frequently to help poor people in another country.
I know that, without trying, we do leave traces of who we are and were behind us. These photos ending up in my hands, with their stories attached, proves that. So I think its a Good Thing to be aware of that, and make our stories ones that will bless those who discover them, whenever and however that may be.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. 1 Samuel 12:22
I have been dealing with the grief of rejection for some time now. I can take rejection from art exhibits; I expect some of that as a part of my business. But that is not the rejection I have been dealing with and grieving from. I have been feeling rejected by those whom I love and have expected to have received love from in return. When God's own people reject you, who can you turn to?
There is only one answer to that question. You can turn to God. I have come to realize that I have been in a period of grief from this rejection for quite some time. It is like going through a divorce to have to turn from people you have loved for a good percentage of your life, and accept that their rejection of you is not sanctioned by God. God will never forsake me. He is pleased with my worship and my love for Him and my love for His people, no matter how they may have treated me.
Without trying to be mysterious, we are in the process of 'moving churches,' having found that the congregation we have attended for well over 20 years is no longer a place we feel useful to His work. How difficult this process is! I grew up in this church. I truly love so many people there. I do not want to turn my back on them, or on the church there. But to feel so useless and so rejected is not how God wants any of us to feel when we gather to worship Him. So we have prayed for almost two years about this. And we have been led to another group of His saints. It is hard to begin again with people you don't know and have not yet made a bond with. But these are His people, too, and we pray that, because they love Him, they will accept us, use us, and make us a part of their portion of the body.
Help me, Lord, to not be bitter about this necessary change in our spiritual lives. Help me to know it is from you, and to know that following your lead will take me to green pastures, as I have been in dry fallow land for so long now. Help us to be a blessing to the body we work with in your name.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I often listen to audiobooks while I work or when I travel. Rather than distract me, it seems to help me focus on my task, and to not be distracted by other things. Lately I have been listening to a recently published and highly promoted book. I actually enjoyed the first few CDs, but things started to make me uncomfortable as the book progressed. The last CD I listened to (not the last one in the book, there are several more beyond this one) made me feel quite uncomfortable. It began glorifying things that felt evil to me. In fact, it even tried to make them seem Godly, which is the scariest kind of evil of all, I think.
I ended up having a horrible night. I have always been very sensitive to things with an aura of spiritual evil. I can not watch horror movies. Even when I was young, there were people whom I avoided, not for any specific reason, but because they 'felt wrong' to me. Generally, the progression of time proved that feeling to be an accurate one. I always encourage young people to listen to that inner voice. I know it kept me out of danger on several occasions.
But a book? Can books be evil? I mean, novels? Meant for our entertainment? I think they can. Books take me places I've never been before; they can even take me to different times, and to places that only exist in an author's and a reader's mind. I love that about books! But I do not want books to take me where I don't want to go. And I believe the power of the written word can take readers places from which they cannot easily return. I do not want or need to be gently led to believe that evil is good. I returned the audio book to the library this morning, without finishing it. I rarely do not finish a book I have begun; in fact, I have plowed my way through some really dreadful books, just to see if they got any better! But not books that are steering the reader towards evil. I am a strong believer that evil does exist. There IS a powerful dark side, and I have no desire to dwell there, even for the length of an audio book.
When I see the darkness coming towards me, I immediately look for the bit of light that will lead me away from it. There will always be that touch of blue sky to find, when you know in your heart it is there.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
There is grief and loss in my family today. It is all I can think of, but I know of nothing to do to help, except that I am finding comfort in holding on to these scriptures, so I will share them with you.
Psalms 34:18 "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalms 27:13-14 "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received."
I am asking that you will pray for my sister and her family, who have lost their youngest son in a car accident. He was a young man of faith and he brought joy to their family. His loss is like a light gone out much too soon. I know he is just fine where he is now, but his family, especially my sister, will be devastated by this grief. Please pray for their comfort. Pray that they will be surrounded by those who will comfort them with Godly comfort, the only kind that can possibly heal such a loss. Pray that God will restore them to His abundant life after this time of grief. Pray that Satan will not use this time of grief to take advantage of them; they are all people of strong faith, so he will be watching for weakness. Pray that they will hold on tightly to God and to the comforters He surrounds them with, and especially to the One He has sent to fill their spirits with.
Thank you for your prayers on my family's behalf.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Matthew 10:16 warns: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." I used to think those were opposites; serpents and doves. One is a predator and the other is prey. But that doesn't mean the prey need be stupid. I told you in a previous post about our resident doves moving house to keep away from the neighbors stalking cat. These are no dumb birds. Our neighborhood is filled with cats and owls, and we even saw a falcon in our front yard recently. But the doves have been here for a number of years, harmlessly yet wisely avoiding being prey.
I have been thinking this today, because I was targeted as the 'prey' by an internet Art Scammer recently. It never 'felt right' from the very beginning of the interaction, but I was willing to give the person the benefit of my doubt until I was sure she was not legitimate. I was not raised to be a suspicious person. I was raised by two people who are trusting of everyone, always expecting the best of them, and usually getting it. But, for some reason, I have a somewhat suspicious nature anyway. I do not automatically trust people; I expect them to earn my trust. I guess I have always seen the wolves that we have been sent out amidst. And I often feel that we sheep are quite outnumbered by them! The predatory wolves who would 'have at' we sheep are not an endangered species.
When I was a child, we learned a weekly Bible verse, which we had to say in front of the congregation on Sunday. One that stuck with me as much as any other was 1 Peter 5:8: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." The Bible told the truth, I knew, so that verse made a huge impact on me! It scared me to death to think there was a roaring lion out there, in disguise of course, wanting to eat me alive! Nightmare stuff, to be sure.
So when the lion comes knocking at my very studio door, it is hard for me to react as an innocent dove. I want to lash out. At the very least, I should use my little dove beak or my tiny sheep hooves to peck it's eyes out, shouldn't I? But I find that I really do not have the nature (nor the resources) to do that. I have been wise as a serpent; the scammer did not get anything from me. And yet I am as harmless, even as defenseless, as our doves. The beak and the hooves are not as mighty as one would like. There is nothing for me to do but to warn others. And to know that revenge and justice in this case is not in my hands.
I am grateful for the warnings, though, Matthew, Luke, and Peter. I've got my eyes on those wolves; my very wary snake eyes!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I have been plagued with chronic headaches (or the same one chronic headache) for the past several years. Sometimes I find that the ache in my right temple corresponds with a vague yearning feeling ... a need to be, do, or have more. It is not a yearning for material fulfillment; I certainly do not need more 'stuff' - though I often try to fulfill the yearning by buying a new book, magazine, or tube of paint. It is a spiritual yearning.
I can read the same yearning in the words of many authors; religious and secular, fiction and non-fiction. I hear it in the voices and words of many singer-songwriters. And I see it in great art; the work of Van Gogh comes to mind. When I see his work in a museum, I am almost always brought to tears by the yearning I see in his brushstrokes.
What are we all yearning for? What is it that we need so badly?
We need to express who we are. We yearn to be able to do that, especially those of us who are compelled by that yearning to create in some artistic arena. I remember when my oldest grand-daughter was a precocious 18 months old; she burst into a very loud rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in a restaurant. Her mother asked her to be quieter, and she leaned over to her mother and said very earnestly, "But Mommy, I NEED to sing!" There are times when I, too, NEED to sing. And sometimes, to sing loudly.
For some reason, I also need to paint and weave tapestries and often to write. All of these things are things I do to try to fill that void, that yearning; to reach out towards God and towards the people He has put in my path.
Michael W. Smith sings that he is "desperate for" God. He yearns.
Today I am yearning. There is something empty that needs filling.
Dear Lord, open the floodgates and fill our yearning hearts and souls.
Monday, June 21, 2010
(This post may be a bit 'preachy,' so I apologize for it's length and perhaps it's tone, though not for it's content.)
In many Christian church congregations, including the one I have been attending, women have all too often had the Spirit that burns within them quenched, quite rapidly and effectively. As a result, more than half of the labor force of the body has been devalued, paralyzed, and disqualified from God's work. How can this be God's plan? How can women not feel oppressed and spiritually depressed when our gifts are not acknowledged or affirmed?
God does not love or gift women any less than He does men. The scriptures have been distorted for so many years to 'keep women in their place' that many, even women, have bought into these spiritual lies. The extreme of this are the polygamist cults that twist and abuse scripture to say that men need many women to 'serve their needs,' but all discriminating practices which do not allow women to use their God-given gifts are of the same vein.
This view of women - that they are inferior to men - is not a Christ-like view, and it cannot please the God who gifts us all. Sincere christians have, throughout history, distorted scripture to 'keep control over' people they believe to be their inferiors: Jews, who 'crucified Christ' so should be wiped out in the Holocost; people of color, to support the use of slavery... But, more than any other group of people, scripture has been falsely used against women. 1 Timothy 2:12 was used to keep women in the US from voting for far too many years. Ephesians 5:22 has even been used to justify physical and sexual abuse of women by their husbands and fathers. No truly Godly man today would justify the use of those scriptures in that way. Yet, some of these same men deny women spiritual equality in their churches. The result is lower self-esteem and higher depression rates of church-going women than in women in the rest of society. Also, there is a higher rate of domestic abuse and violence in 'religious' homes than in any other segment of society in the US, except that of homes of alcoholics.
When a woman feels the Spirit urging her to serve God, using the gifts to lead or teach that she uses out in the world, yet she is told by church leaders to 'keep silent in the church' or that her gifts can be better used in the nursery or the kitchen, how can that not be seen as a quenching of the Spirit? And how can the church not be held responsible for that sin? (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
In a time when women were socially viewed as little more than property; as evil, ignorant, and 'dirty,' not even worthy of educating, Jesus came to show the world a better way. Yes, even a better way to treat women, sharing God's love with them as equals.
Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman as an equal; one who had erred, but who was worthy of his time, attention, teaching, and love. Then he urged her to teach others. His first command to be 'evangelical' was to this woman.
Women were welcomed among Christ's followers, an action which surely angered the religious leader of the day. If He was in our congregations, can you see him silencing a woman's devotion to God and the use of her gifts? Many women sat at His feet to learn, and Martha was gently rebuked by Him for urging her sister 'back to the kitchen.'
The story in John 8, of the woman brought to Jesus to be punished for the sin of adultery, is one of my favorites. Where was the man, by the way? Probably among her accusers, ready to join them in stoning her! Jesus did not condemn her to death, as the men wished Him to do. He forgave her, silencing her accusers and showing that women have equal access to justice, forgiveness and love in God's eyes.
I am not urging a feminist revolt in the churches, or saying that women should take over positions of control. But Galatians 3:28 declares that there is "no longer male and female," that we are "all one in Christ." If that is not an urging for us to all be free to use our gifts to serve Him, I do not know what it is! How painful it has been to me, and to some of my sisters in the Body, to sit back and see that the church would rather use an unwilling and un-gifted man to do service than to use a highly gifted and willing servant, just because she happens to be a woman. What a shame that practice is to and for the Body of Christ!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
To have a gift... to be 'gifted'... to use our gifts... We church-going or spirit-listening people are very aware of these concepts. We are on the lookout for 'gifts' everywhere, for and in ourselves and others. But a thought came to me as I was weaving yesterday that seemed to be a blinding new thought. "This is my Gift - to give!"
I'm almost ashamed to admit that it felt like such a new thought. How very American and materialistic of me, to think that gifts, even spiritual and personal ones, are just for me to receive, even if I have received them and have tried to 'use them in His Honour.'
I have always said that our creative talents (for lack of a better word) are God's gifts, or presents, to us. And for us to not use them would be to dis-honour the Giver. But my thought yesterday took me a big step beyond that belief. I now see that I am expected to give something back. My work in the studio, my weaving and my painting, is not just for my pleasure. It is all that I have to give as a gift. I have nothing else to give; no personal wealth, no brilliance in service of mankind or special knowledge. All I have to give is the work of my hands. So I must give it.
I thought of the holiday song, "The Drummer Boy," who 'had no gift to bring' (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum) so he gave the gift of playing on the drum. That was what he needed to give. Beethoven needed to give the Fifth Symphony. Shakespeare gave stories to ignite imaginations for eternity. J K Rowling gave an epic childrens tale that has already become a classic. Jane Austen, from her relatively love-less life, gave some of the greatest love stories ever written. Einstein gave all that he knew and dreamed and imagined. They all fulfilled their purpose - which was to use what was given to them to give back. None of them knew that their gifts would benefit and bless the world beyond their time. That was not their purpose. The results of our giving are always out of our hands. But we are expected to give.
I have always 'given' - have always tithed generously from any material wealth or gain. But I now see that that is not enough. It is my work itself that I understand to be the gift God wants. It makes me see my work quite differently.
I have a very small plaque in my studio. On it are the words "Great Art Is Created Not To Satisfy The Viewer But The Creator." Of course, that can be taken several ways, but I have always seen The Creator to mean God, not just myself. But to think of all my work as a gift to Him makes the plaque even more meaningful. When you make a gift for someone, you think of them as you create, hoping they will like it, eager to please them with your results. Today I moved the little plaque from the window ledge, a bit dusty and neglected, to sit on my loom, where it will be visible as I work. I will try to remember that the work of my hands is my Gift - not just a valued and enjoyed received Gift, but my only precious Gift to give.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
I've been thinking a lot about joy lately. And, of course, when I think about something a lot, it seems that every song on the radio is about it, every sermon is about it, and every book I read discusses it. But they haven't told me what is Joy, and where can I buy it? Isn't that the American solution to everything? I must admit, I have sometimes fallen into that trap; feeling that something is missing, so running out to Barnes and Noble to see if I can find and buy whatever it is, or surfing Amazon and add a few things to my wish list. But I do know that consumerism is not the answer to finding Joy. New things (even the best books) quickly become just one more thing to dust on my bookshelf.
Our library's 'One County/One Book' choice for this year was The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. I read it. It did not answer the question for me: Where do I find bliss? And what is bliss anyway? Wikipedia, (which is supposed to answer all our questions, isn't it?) says:
Bliss can be a state of profound satisfaction, happiness and joy.
Bliss is a constant state of mind undisturbed by gain or loss.
OK. That sounds like something I want. But still, it doesn't tell me where or how to get it.
The group I sing with has been singing a lot of 'joy' songs. They are generally quite perky and fun to sing. They give me that 'state of satisfaction, happiness, and joy.' But all too quickly, the song is over.
I read the scriptures that talk about 'the joy of the Lord.' But again, they are surrounded by scriptures that lead me to believe that such joy is not the laugh-out-loud, smile-all-the-time bliss we all are looking for. I have also been reading several books about creativity and, surprisingly, the authors also discuss this quest for joy we are all on; the search that the American Constitution calls the 'pursuit of happiness.' So, come on people, where can it be found?
Well, I certainly don't have the answer to that question. But I am beginning to see that the second Wikipedia description is closer to what I, at least, need to find to feel that I have found Joy. To have a 'state of mind that is undisturbed by gain or loss.' To learn to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:10) And Matthew Fox (Creativity) adds that we need to live a life of gratitude and creativity; a yearning to return blessing for blessing, joy for joy.
So, I have been striving to be content; to be more aware of all of the things around me that I have to be grateful for, and to actually take the time to say Thank You. I have also been making sure I take the time to create, be it artwork in the studio or a sketch in my sketchbook, a photo session in the garden, or a new recipe for cookies. And these things do give me a quiet kind of joy. As Martha Stewart would say, I do think that is a Good Thing. Don't you?
Monday, May 10, 2010
I am not a naturally joyful person. In fact, I am a bit of a curmudgeon, and can find many things that make me grumpy. But I have lately been making myself take note of the little bursts of Joy that I have. In fact, I have been stopping and saying to myself, "THIS makes me happy!", sometimes with a great deal of wonder. I guess springtime is an easier time of year for me to take note of these little bursts of JOY, but it is a habit I want to keep up; this noticing of Joy. I believe God wants me to be happy, and the things that have made me feel that way are little gifts, tiny gift-wrapped presents, from Him.
Here are some of the things that have given me joy lately:
The scent of lilacs. I can't pass them by without thrusting a handful to my nose and breathing in pure bliss.
Fresh coffee in the morning. When the weather warms up, we don't always brew a hot pot every day, but when we do, ....Ummmmm!
Iced tea on the porch with my sweetie.
Iced coffee with a friend at a coffee shop.
Watching the cat roll in the dirt. His joy is infectious.
A tuna salad sandwich with crunchy bits of onion and celery in it.
A lake-wet dog.
New pictures of my grandchildren!! (Best of all!)
Hearing a good song that I haven't heard in decades, so that I had forgotten how much I love it.
Getting out my spring/summer clothes, putting the winter woolens away, and slipping into a well-worn favorite soft T-shirt that I haven't worn for 6 months.
The smell of my oil paints, and the feel of them passing from my brush to the canvas.
A new book by a favorite author.
Sleeping with open windows and a breeze lightly blowing the lace curtains.
A rare spring rainstorm.
Sharing a laugh with my husband or a friend.
Having a bit of weaving or painting look like I hoped it would.
A good hair day.
A sold painting.
May you also have JOY in the many simple gifts that surround us all! And may you stop and capture that moment with your awareness.
Monday, April 26, 2010
On Sunday evening, the a capella group I sing with went to a neighboring church to sing. The church family there was grieving the loss of one of their missionary members. In tribute, one of the members recited this poem, which is of unknown origin:
My Life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.
Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.
This poem became popular when Corrie Ten Boom included it in her book a number of years ago, but I have always wondered why it became so popular with the general public. If I were not a weaver, I do not think I would understand it in the same way I understand it because I am a weaver.
When I weave a tapestry, especially a large one, as the span of my life would hopefully be, I can only see a very small portion of it at a time. I cannot concern myself with what has been woven before, because it is wound around a beam and will not be seen again until the tapestry is completed and off the loom. In the photo above, the large tapestry is almost completed. It is 56" long, yet only about 10" of tapestry can be seen by me as I weave any given area. What will be woven in the future has not been determined yet. Even though I may have the design completed and in front of me, as God the weaver of our lives surely does, each thread I weave in, each color and texture, is a choice I make while I am weaving each specific shape and area. I may choose, and change my mind, and choose again several times before I weave the area in what will be it's final arrangement. Though God may have a design in mind for our lives, he is allowing us to choose the colors and textures that go into it.
This is the 'underside' of one of my tapestries, fresh off the loom. Whomever wrote this poem knew what the underside of a tapestry looked like! Just like our lives often look to us; like pure chaos. Yet, when turned over there is a beautiful tapestry on the other side, with a design that looks planned and orderly. It is that beautiful side of our lives, according to the poet, that God sees.
One of my favorite parts of this poem is the bit about how necessary the 'dark threads' are. In any art or design course, one of the first things, and the most often repeated thing, that you learn is how important it is to have all values present in your design. Bright colors and areas of light cannot 'sing' without nearby areas of dark. Our lives do need the dark times, much as we dread and dislike them, for us to know true joy in the light times.
I have not thought of this poem in a long time. It was good to have it drawn to my attention again. When I heard it on Sunday evening, I wanted to bring everyone home to my studio with me, so I could show them exactly what the poet meant!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I am not getting much done this morning. I have been watching spring unfold. Watching with wonder.
We have had a love story, a true romance, taking place in our yard for the past several years. A few years ago - maybe 4-5 - a beautiful white dove moved into our old trees. She has the most mournful cry, and she kept it up almost relentlessly the whole first spring she was here. She was a loner. All of the other doves shunned her - maybe because she was different, the only all white dove around here.
The following spring, she began her mournful cry again, but before the spring was over, she had found a mate, and her cry no longer sounded so mournful or so relentless. Her mate is a regular ring-necked dove, but he is quite a bit lighter in hue than the rest of the area's common doves. They have been a pair now since they found each other. They generally nest in our flowering crab tree, but a neighborhood cat has been spying there this spring, so they have decided to move house.
The amazing thing is, they have decided to move into our dog yard! One might think, 'out of the frying pan and into the fire,' but I have been watching their relationship unfold with our 10 month Golden puppy, and it has astounded me.
Booker is a real asset to the doves' home-building. He gathers sticks and branches from the yard, and chews them down into twigs just right for the birds nest. The doves gather these, right under Booker's nose. I watched this morning while all three were on the patio, the doves gathering twigs not 5 feet from Booker, who just sat and watched them.
What amazes me is that I would not describe Booker as a 'gentle soul.' He is a rough-and-tumble puppy. Just ask our cat! But he seems to know... and I am not sure what it is that he knows. Does he know from experience that he can not catch them? Does he know that he is their protector from the cat, who will not come into his yard to get them? I'm not sure, but it is clear that he 'knows' something that makes him allow them to be so near and to not harass them at all.
It has reminded me of the things we just 'know.' We know so many things; things that keep us safe. Things that tell us Whose we are. Things that connect us to some people or repel us from others who are a threat to us. I truly believe these things are the things that God has placed in our hearts to help us function in this world. Some would call this knowing 'instinct.' That's as good a word as any, but whatever it is called, in Booker and in myself, I 'just know' that it is a gift from above.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
As I was driving to have coffee with a friend this morning, I felt the rock I have been carrying in my pocket to remind me to praise God. So I began to sing a song of praise... not one I have ever heard before, but one that just came to me as I drove. I'm going to post it here, so I don't forget it. I've 'been given' songs before, but I never remember them a few days later. (I hope I remember the tune, too, as I liked it, but if not, I guess I'll just make another up!) Here it is... (Don't judge it too harshly, as I don't claim to be a poet or a lyricist!)
If I do not praise Him,
If no praise falls from my lips,
If no Hallelujahs
Travel from my heart to His...
The hills and the rocks will cry out!
The mountains and valleys will sing;
Shout 'Hallelujahs' to the King!
If I do not praise Him.
If I do not praise Him,
If my heart turns from His grace;
If my lips are silent
When I look upon His face...
The grass in the field will sing praises!
The trees on the hills clap their hands!
The mountains will shout out glad tidings,
If I do not praise Him.